- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2005

Franken on neocons

Comedian and radio talk-show host Al Franken compares Jewish “neoconservatives” to al Qaeda in the December issue of Moment, a magazine of “Jewish politics, culture & religion for the 21st century.”

Mr. Franken, a Democrat who is publicly flirting with the idea of running for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in 2008, told writer David Paul Kuhn that neoconservatives “have an incredible arrogance, and hubris, and an unbelievable ability to believe their own hype.”

Mr. Franken was asked about what the writer called “the Jewish neoconservatives — such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Irving Kristol and his son William Kristol.”

“I’m not sure they are particularly devout Jews,” Mr. Franken replied. “They come from this Leo Strauss school.”

Mr. Strauss was a German-Jewish refugee from World War II and a political philosopher at the University of Chicago who influenced many of the pioneers of modern neoconservative thought, the interviewer noted.

Mr. Franken continued: “And Strauss said religion was good for the masses, but you didn’t have to use it. So it’s a good thing to keep the masses in check, but we superior Straussians don’t have to practice this ourselves.

“I saw this great British documentary called ‘The Power of Nightmares.’ And the whole point of it is to draw parallels between the Straussians and al Qaeda. They sort of have a lot of things in common. The rest of the world doesn’t believe what they believe is inherently corrupt and wrong and evil.”

Mr. Franken added: “It’s sorta like it’s OK to kill these other people who don’t think your way because your philosophy is the right philosophy.”

Serious disadvantage

Since the late ‘90s, the political pendulum “has appeared to be stuck,” Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson write in the New York Times Magazine.

“Despite losing the popular vote in 2000 and facing one of the most closely divided electorates in U.S. history, George W. Bush has governed largely to please his base, allied with a GOP majority committed to goals that were demonstrably out of line with middle-of-the-road voters’ views on many issues,” said Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson, who teach political science at Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, respectively, and who authored “Off-Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy.”

“In recent decades, Republican politicians and activists have moved considerably to the right. The median Republican senator of the early ‘70s, for example, was significantly to the left of the current GOP maverick John McCain.

“Today, however, the typical Senate Republican is situated just shy of the ultraconservative Sen. Rick Santorum. Meanwhile, the median voter remains in roughly the same ideological location. Yet the GOP has still managed to win elections and pursue many of its key aims without dislodging the pendulum from its rightward position.”

The writers attributed this to the fact that there are more Republican-leaning small states than Democratic-leaning large ones, giving the GOP an advantage in holding the Senate. Likewise, in the House, Republicans “are helped by the fact that Democratic voters are more tightly packed together.”

Throw in gerrymandering, fundraising and control of the agenda and the Democrats are at a serious disadvantage, the writers said.

Symbolic rejection

“Has San Francisco seceded from the United States? The passage on Election Day of Measure I, dubbed ‘College, Not Combat,’ would seem almost to amount to that,” Stanley Kurtz writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“By a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, San Francisco’s voters told military recruiters to stay out of the city’s high schools. Although Measure I is nonbinding, it is a repudiation of a basic obligation of citizenship. Whatever one’s views on the Iraq war and the president’s policies, we are all under the protection of the U.S. military. Fighting for our foreign policy goals in the public arena is one thing. Making it impossible for our military to recruit is another,” Mr. Kurtz said.

He added: “San Francisco’s symbolic rejection of the military deserves to be met with an equally powerful symbolic response. Congress ought to consider a resolution of censure. Clear statements of disapproval by national officials from the area — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi? Sen. Barbara Boxer? Sen. Dianne Feinstein? — would also be in order.”

Shocked, shocked

“President Bush warned after 9/11 that the War on Terror would be fought in the shadows. Now, four years later, his critics are shocked and outraged — are they ever anything else? — to learn that the CIA has been operating ‘black sites,’ secret prisons overseas for top-level al Qaeda captives,” National Review says in an editorial.

“Dana Priest’s article in The Washington Post revealing their existence seems to say — although it’s difficult to parse since it’s based on sketchy information — that about 30 people are being held at these prisons. Some of them were originally targeted for assassination immediately after 9/11, but the CIA figured it probably wasn’t capable of killing them without absurd missteps and that they would be more valuable alive and providing intelligence,” the magazine said.

“They couldn’t be brought back to the U.S. without the risk that they would quickly accrue the rights of domestic criminal defendants. They don’t deserve the protections afforded standard POWs under the Geneva convention: notification of their families of their whereabouts, regular visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and exchanges of letters with their friends and families. So the CIA has kept them in the most tightly controlled, isolated, disorienting conditions possible.

“We wouldn’t want many detainees to be treated this way, and as time passes and they are drained of intelligence value, the captives at these sites should be held under a different arrangement. But the secret prisons were a reasonable improvisation in response to 9/11 and to an implacable enemy who has placed himself beyond the bounds of the laws of war and civilization.”

Not worried

“Liberal Air America has enlisted Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for its latest fundraiser, and he claims political change is in the air,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

” ‘As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday,’ he preaches, ‘there are strong signs that the right wing’s domination of talk radio is finally coming to an end. And that’s something for which we can all be thankful.’

“A righty radio source says, ‘Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean [Hannity] aren’t worried.’ ”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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